ORLANDO, Fla. — When Ben Gordon reached the playoffs for the first time as a member of the Chicago Bulls in 2005, it was on a team that began the season with an 0-9 record.
As tough as times have gotten for the Orlando Magic the past two years, they’ve never stumbled that badly out of the gate.
Gordon, who has averaged more than 20 points a game in the postseason for his career, will try to use what he has learned during his 10 years in the NBA as a positive influence on one of the league’s youngest teams. The Magic officially announced Friday that they signed Gordon to a two-year, $9 million contract to help offset in part the void in scoring and leadership at guard caused by the recent trading of Arron Afflalo and waiving of Jameer Nelson.
With Victor Oladipo, Nikola Vucevic and Tobias Harris all under the age of 25, the 31-year-old Gordon realizes his counsel might be as valuable as his 3-point shooting touch.
"I think they have a lot of great young talent," he said. "They just need some veteran guys around them."
Although Gordon is a 40.2 percent career 3-point shooter and a former Sixth Man of the Year, both his accuracy and playing time dropped significantly the past two seasons with the Charlotte Bobcats — now the Hornets — who ended up waiving him March 2. But Magic vice president Scott Perry, who was Detroit’s vice president of basketball operations while Gordon played for the Pistons, and assistant general manager Matt Lloyd, who spent 13 years in the front office of the Bulls, spoke up on his behalf to general manager Rob Hennigan.
"They knew what kind of person I was and my work ethic and what I brought to the table," Gordon said. "They showed some interest right away, and I couldn’t turn (them) down."
"He made it clear he’s looking to kind of re-establish himself, and he felt like this was a good fit for him to do that," Hennigan said. "And we felt like it was a good fit, based on what our roster needed."
With Afflalo being sent to the Denver Nuggets the night of the draft and Nelson, Ronnie Price and Jason Maxiell all being released since the start of July, the Magic were at risk of becoming dangerously inexperienced. But in addition to signing Gordon, they claimed guard Willie Green off waivers from the Los Angeles Clippers. A third over-30 player, forward Channing Frye, is expected to make his signing official sometime next week.
"You never want to be too young. You never want to be a geriatric team either," Hennigan said. "So you want to find that common ground."
Gordon had already been in town to watch the Magic’s entry in the Orlando Pro Summer League, which included Oladipo and first-round picks Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton. He also spoke with players who were on the team that endured a 10-game losing streak on the way to finishing with a 23-59 record.
"I can’t stress it enough that they’re going to work hard," Gordon said. "They don’t want to see what happened last season happen again. Everybody’s head is in the right place."
With the departures of Afflalo and Nelson, Oladipo is the Magic’s leading returning 3-point shooter from last season. The additions of Gordon and Frye could change that.
"He’s a guy who can do it with the ball in his hands and without the ball," Gordon said of Oladipo. "Those are always the type of players I love to play with because the defense is always keying in on them and worrying about them. So that will give me the opportunity to get open around the 3-point line and get hot from there."
Green, who turns 33 later this month, said he was surprised to learn of the Magic’s interest in him but was reassured by Hennigan and Perry that he wouldn’t be as seldom-used as both Price and Maxiell were in their only seasons in Orlando.
"I don’t think any player in this league that is on a team can’t play anymore," he said. "So I’m definitely looking forward to getting after it competitively on the basketball floor and using my leadership and my character to help this team push forward."